Oulton Park, August 16th
It is fortunate for the North of England that they have the Mid-Cheshire Motor Racing Club, for these enthusiastic people do their utmost to bring Grand Prix cars to the North with their annual Gold Cup meeting at Oulton Park. It was at the Gold Cup meeting in 1961 that Moss showed the potential of 4-wheel drive, when he drove the Ferguson P99 car, so it was fitting that this year’s race should have a 4-wheel-drive atmosphere about the entry. Gold Leaf Team Lotus arrived with but one car, a 4-w-d Lotus 63 for Rindt to drive, and Matra International had every intention of letting Steward race the MS84 car. As the Gold Cup race stands on its own and does not count for any Championship, both teams were prepared to use the race as an experiment. With Lotus there was the 4-wheel-drive car and nothing else, so Rindt had to get down to the job of adapting himself in practice. As there was only one car available Hill had to make do with a Formula Two Lotus from the works-supported Winkelmann team. Two 4-w-d entries were made before the Nürburgring, where Andretti crashed the second Lotus 63. Matra were not so convinced about the MS84 and had their two MS80 cars in the transporter as well. Stewart had only just started practice with the 4-wheel-drive car when the Cosworth V8 engine broke, so he hurriedly switched to his usual MS80 2-wheel-drive car. The complicated MS84 needed 12 hours or more of work to change the engine, and Tyrrell had only brought the minimum of mechanics with him so it was decided to race the MS80 and put the 4-wheel-drive car to one side. Rindt’s 4-w-d practice was stopped a bit short when the mechanical fuel pump seized and broke the driving belt, so he continued with some laps in the second Winklemann F.2 Lotus.
Stewart was by the far the fastest in practice, his only opposition coming from Ickx, who had the two works Brabhams to choose from. Bonnier was going quite well in his newly-acquired Lotus 49B when part of the front suspension came adrift and he had a lurid crash at Island Bend, being lucky to escape with a minor blow on the head. The car was wrecked and he was out of the race. The only other Formula One cars in the entry were Moser’s Brabham-Cosworth V8 and Lucas with the ex-Bernard White B.R.M. V12, the rest of the field being made up with Formula 5000 cars, though at the last moment Rollinson substituted his Formula Two Brabham for the Lola-Chevrolet V8 he should have driven. The Owen Racing Organisation entered two cars, but after the Nürburgring shambles the entries were withdrawn and Oliver drove Norinder’s Lola-Chevrolet V8 and Surtees went off to America. In spite of much publicity and a “load of old guff” in the programme, the Formula 5000 cars were no match for the Formula One cars, and while they handle like sick camels in wet sand, as they appear to do at the moment, they are not likely to be any challenge. With their great iron Chevrolet engines in the back they cannot hope to by much good on handling, compared with an identical chassis carrying a lightweight Cosworth V8. The young Italian driver de Adamich was fastest with one of the Surtees Specials known as a T.S.5, and Oliver equalled his time later in the practice. Hill and Rollinson with the Formula Two cars were amongst the rear of the Formula 5000 cars.
The Organisation put on a well-balanced programme, even if it was a bit short, the first race starting at 2.30 pm. This was a Group 4 Sports-Car event over 19 laps and should have seen a battle between Gardner in de Udy’s Lola T70, and Bonnier in a similar car, with the possibility of Guthrie joining in with his GT40. With Bonnier hors de combat and Guthrie not starting, Gardner was left all on his own to tour round and win, followed by a great number of Chevrons led for a while by Green, until he crashed, and then by Lepp. Not a successful event.
The runners for the Gold Cup appeared next, all except Rindt, whose Lotus was still being worked on in the paddock. Taylor in the second Surtees car was on the dummy grid but not happy with the engine, and as the field moved forward to the grid proper Rindt was driving round the circuit from the paddock. The flag was about to be raised when Rindt drove along the grass verge to take him place in the second row, but Oliver had already moved up from the third row. They all found room and everyone got away. For once everything went right for Ickx and he got his Brabham (BT26-3) into the lead from Stewart’s Matra, but only for one lap and then Stewart forged by into Knickerbrook and was away. Rindt was third with the 4-w-d Lotus and de Adamich was leading the F.5000 cars, in fourth place overall, followed by Oliver. It was not a great race at the front for Ickx could not keep up with Stewart, and Rindt could not keep up with Ickx, though the Austrian was going quite well for his first try at 4-w-d on a road circuit. On lap 4 Oliver had a great spin out of Old Hall Corner, but kept control and re-joined the race in last position. Although he began to regain places his race only lasted until lap 13, when the Chevrolet engine began to overheat and he was forced out. Forbes had already crashed his Lola-Chevrolet and Lucas had retired with the old B.R.M. Moser had a long pit stop with engine problems, and after being boxed in at the start, Hill had got going splendidly in the little F.2 Lotus and shaken off the lesser F.5000 drivers, while Rollinson was following him along well.
On lap 19 Stewart’s engine began to misfire and as he headed for the pits, Ickx went by into the lead. The trouble on the Matra was eventually traced to a broken battery lead and by the time it was repaired and Stewart re-joined the race he was two laps down and last in the race, with the exception of Moser, who was many laps behind. Although there was no hope of catching anyone Stewart put on a grand display of hard driving, lapping faster than Ickx or Rindt, both of whom let him by, knowing he could not make up two laps in the time available. Oulton Park is a nice circuit to drive round so Stewart enjoyed himself and let the crowds continue to see the Matra in action. Ickx had a trouble-free run to victory, followed by Rindt to the great joy of Team Lotus, who felt they had really achieved a step forward with their 4-wheel-drive programme. No one else completed the 40 laps, the brave de Adamich being third, followed by Taylor in the sister car from the Surtees stable, and Hailwood in the Epstein/Cuthbert Lola-Chevrolet V8. Hill had worked his way up and got past Hailwood, much to the joy of the crowds, but the F.2 engine had blown up on lap 36. It had not been a great race, the entry suffering from the after-effects of Nürburgring, and the Formula 5000 cars not being very exciting.
After a rather poor demonstration lap by Oliver with the old 1½ litre V16 B.R.M. the meeting closed with a multi-class saloon car race, with crashes galore, even Pierpoint crashing the Shaw Chevrolet-Camaro.—D. S. J.
Around and about, November 1989
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